As we get geared up for Saturday’s home opener, it’s time to dip into the old Q&A bag and see what we come up with. Joining us this week is Ryan Lynch (@ryanlynchwriter on Twitter), who you may remember from our EXPANSIONPALOOZA piece on Florida Atlantic. Now, as then, Ryan is a student at FAU. Unlike then, Ryan now actually covers his own school for the independent Group of Five site Forgotten5 instead of having to cover their archrival.
Jon: We are, amazingly, still living in a world where nobody playing college football was even born yet when FAU first took the field. How would you assess the program in that context, overall? Are you satisfied that FAU is where it is after only 16 years?
Ryan: Looking at their history, they've had their moments as a team but still need to continue their improvement. You look at what they've done in the past and they've had some great seasons, a Sun Belt championship and a pair of bowl wins to show for it. That's something they can boast over many other schools.
But look at their recent history, they've had two straight 3-9 seasons. They have trouble getting butts in the seats. They hav yet to sniff the championship game in Conference USA. I'd say you could do worse in the time they had, but as of late they've lost some luster. They have a good young core on both sides of the ball though, so the future looks bright.
Jon: As a fan and current student, how does it feel knowing you get to claim Howard Schnellenberger for the rest of his life?
Ryan: I don't know if we can make that claim.
I'd say that Miami was the reason he became so prominent in the eyes of so many Floridians. You talk about Schnelly, you talk about the U.
Looking at Florida Atlantic, he established his own legacy in a small setting. He built that program from the ground up. Without him, Owls Football may not exist the way it does today. In Boca, fans will forever be thankful for what he did to help build a culture to follow at FAU.
The thing is, many students today won't know who he is. The lasting legacy is unfortunately lost on the young, even with the field named after him. I'd say he is very important to the program's history, but we can't claim him as only ours and he is probably more well know for his exploits in other places than here.
Jon: Things have been... ungood since Schnelly stepped down. Carl Pelini shot himself in the foot, and now Charlie Partridge needs to somehow come up with a win this week just to have a chance to get his career record to .400 the week after. How hot is the chair in his office?
Ryan: His chair is not burning yet, but it will get hotter as the season goes on if he continues to lose.
The school has taken a long-term view to success by building for the future, and Partridge is part of that vision. He, in my mind, needs to win at least five or six games to keep his job, because if he doesn't they don't have a tangible measuring bar for improvement.
Giving him a fourth season wouldn't be a mistake if he does well enough this year, but he is walking on a tightrope at the current moment to keep his job.
Jon: As a coach, what's Partridge like? Any glaring tendencies or weird quirks?
Ryan: Partridge is pretty vanilla when compared to other coaches, and that is not a bad thing when compared to a guy like Pelini who was more of a wildcard and got into trouble.
He does have a sense of humor about things, but at the end of the day he is devoted to winning football games and that's his main pursuit. That doesn't lend one to being different.
There's no super huge quirks to him, but he does have a solid Twitter feed to boast.
Jon: After K-State kept Christian McCaffrey in check for all but three plays, what do you think FAU's offense will be able to do on Saturday? Who should we keep an eye on?
Ryan: Looking at how they did against Miami, there were plenty of problems to be addressed. The new no-huddle offense hit some snags after losing momentum, and the run game couldn't get anything going. Quarterback Jason Driskel was under constant pressure because of lineman Reggie Bain's absence, which led to six sacks. He also had trouble moving the ball.
To have success against K-State, running back Greg Howell will have to have a game like he did versus Southern Illinois. His play would then open up the pass game and allow Driskel more freedom. As a whole, the no-huddle will have to manage the pace instead of letting the opponent control the game.
Jon: Who are the playmakers on defense? Is the unit cohesive enough to potentially give a questionable offense some trouble?
Ryan: The defense is probably the best unit on the team with all the returning players they have. Safety Ocie Rose and defensive Back Jalen Young had three picks each as freshmen last year, and both have a tendency to terrorize quarterbacks.
Azeez Al-Shaair dominates as a great linebacker, having the ability to drop into coverage, prevent open field runs and get to the quarterback as well. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has built a reputation for exploding past the line for sacks, currently holding the all-time program record.
While their play has not fully picked up yet in the first two games, I think this will be the game where they finally show what they're capable of.
Jon: How do you see the Owls' visit to Manhattan playing out?
Ryan: I don't think this will be a bloodbath by any means, but to be honest the Owls will probably not have a good day in Manhattan. Looking at FAU's travel schedule and Kansas State's bye week, the combination already isn't favorable for the Owls.
I don't think FAU is prepared for its matchup, but only because K-State seems to be in a much better place. Expect the Owls to hang on til halftime, and then the Wildcats will open the gates on the game's scoring.
31-14 final score.
Our uncountable thanks to Ryan for providing his insight. Be sure to check out Forgotten5 for great coverage of the Group of 5 schools (as well as some FCS goodies here and there).